What Are the Most Common Ingredients in Hospital Hand Sanitizers?

Alex Tree

The most common ingredients in hospital hand sanitizers are alcohol, moisturizing agents, and fragrance. Alcohol, the primary ingredient of most effective hand sanitizers, is the most important ingredient because it is the ingredient that sanitizes. Moisturizing agents are not necessary, but they are commonly added anyway, because a popular misconception is that alcohol-based sanitizers dry a person’s hands more than soap and water. Fragrance oils are also added to lessen or distract from the strong smell of alcohol or other sanitizing ingredients. The most common ingredients in hospital hand sanitizers can vary based on country and the population’s beliefs; for example, some people believe alcohol is impure and should not be touched.

Hospital hand sanitizers typically contain alcohol and water.
Hospital hand sanitizers typically contain alcohol and water.

Alcohol is by far the most common and abundant ingredient in hospital hand sanitizers. This ingredient is responsible for killing germs and is usually the primary ingredient in effective hand sanitizers. In fact, if the solution is not made up of at least 60-percent alcohol, it will not be effective at killing germs. Even if the product contains 60-percent alcohol or more, all users must thoroughly wet their hands. Experts state that if a person’s hands are dry 15 seconds after applying a hospital hand sanitizer, he or she did not apply enough.

Sometimes hospital hand sanitizers also include a moisturizer. While alcohol-based sanitizers usually do not dry out a person’s hands as much as soap, they are still drying. Aloe, natural oils, and vitamins are commonly added to the alcohol solution to leave a user’s hands feeling soft. The exact moisturizing agent varies, so it is best to look at the ingredients list on the back, side, or bottom of the bottle to discover a hospital sanitizer’s moisturizers.

Fragrance is another common addition to hospital hand sanitizers. Without fragrance and often even with it, a hand sanitizer smells strongly of alcohol, which is an unpleasant smell for some people. While a natural or synthetic fragrance oil can lessen that smell, adding fragrance to a product also has its downsides. For example, many people have sensitive skin that reacts to essential oils.

Some religions do not believe in consuming or using alcohol. This includes using alcohol to prevent serious health conditions like the swine influenza. Not all people of these religions are in agreement, however. Some doctors believe that because alcohol-based sanitizers help prevent disease and infection, it is allowable to use it instead of a less effective alternative.

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